A/N: Just a random idea that hit me. I hope you enjoy reading.
Thank you to Goldenhair for reading and encouraging me.
Thank you to the wonderful Juliegirl18 for stepping in as my beta.
There's something strange about that girl.
I didn't realise until they said those words that there was something strange about me. It made sense though. I didn't do what other little girls did. I liked to think I could talk to the waves at midnight. I wandered to the beach in the dark and tried to reply to their conversations. My mother and father didn't approve, but didn't have time to do anything about the whispers that my actions caused. Not when they had my sister. There was something strange about me, but there was something wrong with her. She was three and I was six, and her limbs were twisted and wrong. She was put together like a mismatched doll, and her mouth didn't close properly. She made bubbles with it though, and I told my mother that was a good sign. She had to be a good little girl if she made bubbles. They called her kitten because of the strange noises she made- gasping, mewling as if she was trying to scream.
But kittens don't like water. She drowned before I turned seven. They put her in a little black box and sent her out to sea. I'd seen a few black boxes before that, fishermen and swimmers that didn't listen to the waves enough. That was smallest black box though. I didn't know they made them that small.
I tried to find her one day. I thought the boxes went somewhere, that the waves had secret caverns of them, just waiting for me to find. Kitten would be there, making bubbles and trying to walk with her fingers twisted. I couldn't find her, even though I shouted louder than the waves. That made me stranger than before, and by then I was nearly nine. Nine-year-olds don't looking for dead people. They help their families. I didn't like the smell of fish, and I couldn't tie ropes together. My fingers broke and blistered, and my blood stained the ropes red. I couldn't do anything, and I didn't see the need to learn. I could speak and I could run, I could count and swim. But I wasn't helpful, I wasn't useful.
They say idle thumbs are the devil's playthings. Idle children go the Games. They say your name is picked from many, that it's all luck and chance. I thought there were little men inside, reading all the names and picking someone who would represent the glory of District 4. Finnick Odair had been like that, strong and capable, and everything every parent would want. The little men had picked well, choosing him for us.
But the little men must have been in black boxes when I was chosen. I wasn't meant to win. Survival wasn't something I was adept at. I wasn't the fittest, the smartest, or the strongest. By all laws of nature, I should have died. I didn't though. I didn't try to survive in that place. I just didn't want to die. I tried not to die, and it didn't happen. But afterwards I had to live, and that was more difficult than trying to stay alive. Something happened in that place. I turned from a strange girl into a person who wasn't real anymore. I couldn't hear the waves anymore; they wouldn't talk to me after what I'd done. I could hear the fish when they screamed with the hook in their mouths. I heard them gasping, breaking, crying as they were bludgeoned. The sun was too orange, always whispering and making me remember all the faces of the dead children. It had been in that place with me, staring at me as I ran and cried and killed. There things at the bottom of the ocean and in the back of the shadows that wanted me. The water wouldn't forgive me, so she let them through. I always woke up before they could touch me, but there was nothing to keep me safe from them.
I always dreamed in colour. Apparently, that's rare. Not as rare as creatures reared from dead people, children playing death games, and birds that can talk, but it's rare enough. I wondered what it would be like to dream without colour. You wouldn't know rain from blood, tears from leaking fluids, or when their eyes dulled with death. They would just be sleeping, resting so peacefully. People didn't die peacefully in my dreams. They clawed out eyes with dull nails as a knife was dragged so slowly across their throat. Colourful and bright they died, struggling like Kitten did, bubbles from their open throats foaming towards me.
I tried to make the waves talk again. I stayed all night by the shore on my own private Island. I got an Island for not dying, away from where all the black boxes were. I waited and whispered, my cheek pressed against the sand as the waves drew closer. They were muttering in their own language, they wouldn't let me understand. I laughed, I cried, I pleaded for them to let me in. They just covered me, ignoring and smothering, letting the shadows have their way with me. I wondered if should get a little black box. Send them a gift, an offering for disobeying them. I wondered if my little sister would hold my hand if I found her at the bottom of the ocean.
I didn't find any boxes, because the waves didn't want me to see them. Instead they sent someone to get me out, to take me away from their secrets. I sat on the beach in the dark, my head in Finnick's lap as the water dripped out of my lungs. I tried catching it and drinking it back in, thinking that I could keep the waves inside me. But Finnick carefully stopped me each time, taking my hands and keeping them in his so I couldn't keep the water. I cried, begged him to let me try again. But he refused to let go of me.
Finnick could tie knots without his skin breaking. He could fish and catch meals that most could only dream of. He could swim faster than I, but not by much. I asked if he could talk to the waves too, but he said no. He told me I couldn't either, and he was right, I couldn't anymore. When I saw the blood in my dreams, he told me that it was just there. In my dreams, in my head. The waves weren't making it happen; it was a memory of something horrible, but it wasn't my world anymore. If I opened my eyes they would go away, but he wouldn't. He didn't go away. If the sea didn't hold my victory against me, I would swim away. But even though Finnick was special, he was one of us. A champion murderer, and we weren't allowed to disappear.
They thought I was crazy. They gave me little blue discs, then green ones and even yellow pills. Blue caused a sleep I didn't want to wake from. I pretended I was in my own black box, peaceful and dead. The sky and the sea were blue, and in the middle was a strip of white where I floated in my box. Finnick threw them away when I told him this. He told me not to think about the boxes anymore. It was probably a good idea, as when the blue pills didn't let me sleep, blood and fingers came from the boxes and I couldn't stop screaming. I didn't want to try anymore. Then my mother found her way into her own black box, and we sent her off to see to find Kitten. That was the day I started the green ones
The green ones put a slug in my brain. It was hungry. My memories were digested by it, my parents and sister had names before the slug took them. I forgot places and how to dress. I remembered my name, and Finnick's. I forgot how to swim though. Just for a moment. My legs stopped moving, and I couldn't think how to change that. I breathed in water instead of air, and as always, the water rejected me. Even after I stopped taking them, the slug didn't move. It just lodged itself inside somewhere, giving back some of what it took, but holding onto the majority. Finnick spent hours telling me stories, giving me answers when I didn't remember what was real.
The yellow ones took colour away. I hated them, and paid for it with another black box. My father's accident was so severe, that I didn't know exactly what they sent out to sea. The box was only marginally larger than my sister's, but at least they would have something to talk about under the waves. They let me be crazy. No one would believe crazy Annie and Finnick the whore. We let them live their make believe. They couldn't hear anything there.
I remember the fire girl clearly. I watched the Reaping on the screen on my Island, in Finnick's arms. It was tradition. He didn't watch, he hid his face in my hair and we turned the sound off. I stared at the girl with long dark hair as she ran up to die. She was different than me. She could survive. She had eyes that saw everything, and not what they wanted her to see.
She could hear the trees move.
I smiled and told Finnick about Katniss Everdeen. He nodded against my hair, holding me tighter as I talked about the girl on fire. Every time he left to do what they made him, I turned on the television and watched her. I watched through my finger tips as girls and boys killed and maimed. The girl on fire lived. I watched her fall for the boy, and watched another pine for her. I watched her play the role they gave her, and then I watched her fall apart. Finally, I watched her win. She became one of us, but not quite. She was a joint winner, and there can only be one.
I couldn't stop laughing when they announced the Quell. A game for the winners, trying to make a victorious victor. Who could murder the most? I sung that until Finnick broke down, and then it wasn't as funny anymore. It was even less funny when I stood amongst them. I wanted to be away from dry land, and away from the dead little men who selected Finnick. I wanted to be Katniss. I wanted to jump in and save him, but even if I'd been able to, I couldn't make myself go back there. They picked me too, black boxes always followed me. I couldn't go back into that place, I couldn't not die now. So Mags died instead. I sent out a box for her when I saw it happen. I told my parents and Kitten to take care of her, just as she had taken care of Finnick and me. I hoped they would, even though there weren't any pieces of her in the box.
I was safe when rebellion began. The people who had turned me out for bloodying their ropes helped me day and night to find refuge. They didn't like to come too close, fearing that they would catch what I had. I told them that the slug in my brain didn't move, but that only made things worse. They got me to Finnick though. He kissed me, and told me I was safe, even though he was thin and shaking. I asked him if he'd been drinking enough water, as District 13 was too far away from any ocean. It had to hurt. Before he could answer, the sweet boy I'd seen on television strangled the fire girl. I screamed as she stopped moving, and we were out of the room and away. I stayed away then. They weren't like I thought. They hurt each other with words and hands, and shouted too loudly.
I got to be real in District 13. I married Finnick, in a dress all white, the color of foam on a wave. He smiled and kissed me, and didn't let me go until it was impossible not to. I imaged us floating again, and we told stories about waves and sea creatures. He was mine, and he didn't think I was strange or crazy. He thought I was Annie, and he kept the the boxed things away. There were no shadows for a while, just for a while. Then he left again. He wanted to see this end, make sure that girl and boy didn't die. I didn't hear his name being called out, but he did. So he kissed me and I told him I loved him, and he went to make sure they came back.
They did come back. Katniss and Peeta were victors for the third time. But that's the problem with these games, not everyone is allowed to win. I suppose I should have felt an injustice. My husband died and two children are alive. I didn't though. I saw her eyes when she came back from the Capitol. She wasn't alive anymore, not even when they took her home. Peeta went after her, just before I went back to District 4. I wonder about them. I want them to survive. I want them to learn that you can live in some fashion even when you've won. It doesn't matter how many years go by. We're always going to be victors. We can't change that. They can survive, they can die, or they can not die. Maybe I should have told them this, and maybe I will soon.
I don't know how I ended up back on my Island. I remember the nightmares, seeing him dead in his black box, his hands and eyes gone. After that, I couldn't sleep unless they sedated me. The dreams and shadows returned, and they followed me in the day. There wasn't anyone to save me from them. There wasn't anything anymore. Everyone died. I was allowed to live, and I didn't know why. I was useless, and crazy and Annie. I didn't mean to survive, but as always it happened. There was nothing to hold onto this time. No waves, no husband, no reality. Until the sickness came. Then slowly, I realised that there was something really here with me. It was then that I heard the waves again for the first time in years.
They are quiet today as I hold out the last box I'll ever have in my arms. Perhaps they've forgiven me for the day. They let me wade into them, stand knee deep and feel them beat against me. I tied the box down with rope. I made a knot until my fingers bled, and it's not as good as I wanted it to be. There's nothing inside but a kiss. There's nothing of Finnick anymore. The box is the smallest I've ever put in the water, but it will be my last. There's no one else for me to outlive. The only life I know is too small and too new to worry about its end. I'll survive for this life, and I know I can do that. I place the box in the water and ask Mags to show him the way to everyone else. I know she can do that.
The next day, I lie on the sand and talk to him. I tell him about the little one, and about Peeta and Katniss. I need to see them again so I can tell him more. I know he would want to know. I tell him that the waves have forgiven me, and that they won't leave me again. I tell him all about surviving, kiss the sand, and tell him I'll be back tomorrow.
They probably worry about crazy Annie alone on her Island. When they find out that I'm pregnant, they will be here in an instant. So I lie on the sand and feel the sun watching me while I can. Just strange, crazy Annie on her Island, talking to the dead and newly alive.